If you search Ten and YangYang on YouTube, several fan-made compilation videos pop up. Clips of them squabbling on Instagram Live, messing around behind the scenes of music videos and being paired together in variety show content are spliced together, showcasing their quick-fire rapport with each other. It’s so infectious you can almost feel yourself moving closer and closer to the screen to listen as they naturally finish each other’s sentences. It’s a dynamic that many have playfully dubbed “sibling energy”, an instinctive shorthand clearly born from living and working together for so long as members of WayV, the China-based subunit of NCT.
After debuting in WayV in 2019, the pair joined forces as a duo for the first time in August with the release of the English-language single ‘Low Low’, a summery, up-tempo drum’n’bass-inspired track. Both multi-hyphenates when it comes to performing, the song – complete with a colourful music video and choreography just raring to be the next TikTok trend – provides space for Ten and YangYang to shine in ways different than they have before and the pairing feels like a natural fit. “I spend most of my time with YangYang, and we fight a lot,” Ten reveals to NME over video call, emphasising that it’s mostly just bickering and bantering. “I do a lot of things with him, like watching movies and trying to drag him out of his room.”
“If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t go out of my room,” YangYang chuckles in agreement. He says he’s a plan-maker while Ten is someone who goes with the flow (something he used to his advantage recently when he convinced Ten to buy a skateboard on a whim, even though he’d planned how to make it happen for a while). They’re clearly chalk and cheese in many ways, even down to the specific types of nerves they feel when it comes to releasing music.
“I think I get nervous before [performance] stages, because there’s time between finishing the music video and going on stage,” reveals YangYang. “So, before the stage, you’re just kind of like, ‘I can’t remember the choreography! What if I do it wrong? What if I have the wrong lyrics or anything?’ Yeah, I think that’s kind of a nervous thing for us.”
“For you!” Ten playfully butts in, that sibling energy once again radiating through the screen like those YouTube compilations. For Ten, the nerves come when he’s shooting a music video: “During music videos, everything has to be on time, right? And then you might get, like, two takes to film a part, and during those two takes I need to give everything I’ve got, and I need to express myself as much as I can during a short time.”
However, the pair recognise that their differences make their dynamic work, so much so that they’re already planning more music in the future as a unit: “There’s more to come so we can take it slowly,” YangYang, the younger of the pair, cheekily announces before jumping quickly to confirm that nothing is set in stone yet. “We’ve just decided for ourselves right now we’re going to do more as a duo”.
They reiterate throughout the conversation that they want to challenge themselves with new genres and styles, and that desire might stem from the initial route they wanted to go down with the release that ended up being ‘Low Low’. “We wanted to do something like Post Malone, a heavy hip-hop vibe, first. We wanted something very powerful,” Ten reveals. “They sent us ‘Low Low’, and at first we were like ‘we didn’t ask for this’, but it’s a good opportunity for us anyway because we’ve never tried easy listening music”.
Despite this initial reticence though, it didn’t take long for the song to grip the pair. “On the second day and third day [after hearing the demo], even when we were brushing our teeth or eating, the song kept coming out,” YangYang admits. “We were like ‘this song is catchy’. Even our [WayV] members kept singing. The song would just come out unconsciously.”
Ten and YangYang live with their five fellow WayV members in dorms that they also share with two cats, Leon and Louis, and a beagle named Bella. The group are NCT’s Chinese sub-unit, and while none of the members are Korean (Ten is Thai-Chinese and YangYang is Taiwanese) they are primarily based in Seoul.
While a shared space of seven people and three animals may seem like the antithesis of a calm environment – as members of NCT, the pair are often juggling some of the busiest schedules in K-pop (not to mention Ten’s role as a member of SuperM and his recent promotions for solo single ‘Paint Me Naked’). It’s evident that making a home away from home is important to the group, and YangYang says their pets, which now have almost as much fan-affection as the members themselves, are a big part of that: “My room is directly at the front door, so every time we go home, you just see our cats sitting on my bed. I think that’s kind of like a welcome home for us.”
But while the pair extol the times that they’re able to wind down and relax (Ten enjoys painting, looking after his cats and meeting up with friends while YangYang likes to play games and sleep), it’s evident that they’re already thinking about what they can do to build on their work with ‘Low Low’. Fiercely humble, and perhaps hardened to the divisive nature of online critique, Ten admits to reading comments from fans (called Weishennie). “I think it’s fun to read the comments section. Everyone is sharing their own thoughts about the story and how the concept is going, and it’s just fun for me to read what they think about it,” he admits.
Yet, the singer opines that he also sees it as a way to improve: “I think we need to read it because it’s part of learning, too. Like, what people want might be different to our own thoughts on music and stuff, like ‘Oh, I think this is good’’ but everyone else might think that it’s okay. People have a different perspective.”
We’re now closer to 2022 than we are to the start of 2021, and with there being more of a light at the end of the pandemic tunnel than there has been before, the pair are looking ahead to the future with a vigour and drive to create their own opportunities. “I feel very fulfilled with this project,” Ten remarks tenderly, “so I hope that next year we get to do more duet stuff with a different sound, new choreography, new concept, and trying to switch roles and stuff.”
Ten and YangYang’s new single ‘Low Low’ is out now.